Status: Active 1998-on. Born: 1966-11-21. Spaceflights: 1 . Total time in space: 2.85 days. Birth Place: Longjiang, Heilongjiang.
In the 05/2003 issue of Fliegerrevue, this was one of 12 new names listed as Chinese astronauts in training. The day before the scheduled launch of Shenzhou-5, China's first manned flight, he was named as the second finalist or back-up crew member for the flight. In his service as a PLAAF fighter pilot he had accumulated 1000 hours flight time. Selected in 2008 as prime crew of Shenzhou 7, and to be China's first astronaut to emerge from the spacecraft on a space walk.
Selection of astronauts to fly the Project 921 / Shenzhou manned spacecraft began at the end of 1995. Only PLAAF pilots were considered. Review of service records identified 1504 candidates, further reduced to 886 after stricter screening. In the summer of 1996, 60 candidates passed initial testing at their home bases and were sent to Beijing for final tests and interviews. By April 1997 the candidate list had been pared down to 20, and the final 12 were selected at the end of 1997. The group was officially established in January 1998. In March, 1998, the two Chinese astronauts trained in Russia in 1996, who were also the trainers of this first group of 12 cosmonauts, joined the group officially as candidates for future spaceflights, bringing the total to 14.
China's first manned spaceflight began with the lift-off of the CZ-2F booster into the clear blue morning sky. All went according to plan and China's first man in space, Yang Liwei, entered an initial 200 km x 343 km orbit ten minutes after launch. The naval vessels standing buy for rescue in the Sea of Japan were called back to port.
The highly conservative mission plan was for Yang to remain in the Shenzhou re-entry capsule for the entire 21-hour mission, and not to enter the orbital module. He had two rest periods of three hours each, and was scheduled to eat once or twice meals of what was said to be a superior form of Chinese space food. Frequent communications sessions, including colour television links to the spacecraft, were made possible by China's four tracking ships deployed in the oceans of the world.
As the spacecraft was in its 21st orbit, the orbital module separated. It would stay in the 343 km orbit for a planned six-month military imaging reconnaissance mission. Retrofire was commanded via a tracking ship in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa. Shenzhou-5 landed only 4.8 km from the aim-point in Inner Mongolia with the parachute being sighted by the ground recovery forces prior to landing. Yang landed after 21 hours 23 minutes aloft.
Moved up from October 13. Second Chinese manned space mission. The two-astronaut crew spent 5 days in space, and worked in the Shenzhou orbital module for the first time. Aside from biomedical experiments, the nature of their work was not divulged, and few images of the interior of the orbital module (with its probable military experiments) were released.
Third Chinese manned space mission. The crew consisted of Zhai Zhigang, backup astronaut for China's first manned space mission; and Liu Buoming and Jing Haipeng, backups for the second mission. The astronauts demonstrated the capability of the Shenzhou spacecraft to carry its full complement of three crew for the first time. Zhai, wearing a Chinese-developed Feitian space suit, emerged from the orbital module of the Shenzhou and became China's first astronaut to conduct a spacewalk. Liu, wearing a proven Russian Orlan spacesuit, remained in the depressurized orbital module, ready to assist Zhai in an emergency. A subsatellite, weighing 40 kg, was released after the EVA, and relayed back images of Shenzhou 7 from close range to a distance of several kilometers. The crew returned safely to earth in a pinpoint landing in Outer Mongolia, carried live on television. The orbital module remained in space, conducting space network experiments with the subsatellite.
Zhai, wearing a Chinese-developed Feitian space suit, emerged from the orbital module of the Shenzhou and became China's first astronaut to conduct a spacewalk. Liu, wearing a proven Russian Orlan spacesuit, remained in the depressurized orbital module, ready to assist Zhai in an emergency.